AL Teams that benefit from expanded playoffs

Detroit Tigers

Most overlooked the Tigers in 2021.  After a brutal start to the season the young Tigers squad actually put together a respectable season finishing 77-85, finishing third in the division.  Detroit went into the offseason looking to fill out their rotation with some veteran arms and find some pop to add to the middle of the lineup.  They were successful in both. 

The Tigers added veterans Micheal Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez to a rotation that was highlighted with young arms.  Former first overall pick Casey Mize should still be looked at as the ace of the staff but the addition of Rodriguez is an under the radar move that could make the Tigers a serious threat in the Central Division.  Rodriguez was 13-8 last year with an ERA of 4.74, his expected ERA was actually just 3.50, he was a victim of the short porches of Fenway Park on multiple occasions.  He should thrive in a much more pitcher friendly park in Detroit.  The Tigers also feature two young arms, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, both project to make huge strides in 2022.  The rotation will also get a huge boost with the addition of gold glover Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.  

The offense needed to add more pop in the offseason, they ranked in the bottom of baseball in isolated power. They added power hitter Javy Baez as well as announced that Spencer Torkelson will start the season on the MLB roster.  Baez brings some baggage, he is a strikeout machine that can be his own worst enemy at times but his speed and gap power should play well in Comerica Park.  Detroit still has the veteran presence of Miggy Cabrera and Jonathon Schoop in the middle of the lineup and a litany of speed throughout the lineup that puts pressure on the opposing defense.  AJ Hinch allows his team to play to their strengths and it paid off last year and should help them get to the next level in 2022.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were supposed to be a few years away from contention.  Top level prospects Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez and Jared Kelenic were “eventually” going to find their way to the show. Rather than wait the Mariners exceeded expectations and put together an unfathomable 90 win season. Now the prospects are ready and the expectations are as high as they have ever been in Seattle.  

The Mariners won 90 games with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, they were 30th in batting average, 28th in OBP and 22nd in isolated power.  Basically the offense needed improvement.  For the on-base percentage, they added Adam Frazier, coming off an all-star season where he featured an OBP of .368. For the power they added Jesse Winker, coming off a season where he slugged .558 and a .251 ISO, Winker can also get on base a little big with a .398 OBP.  A fully healthy Mitch Haniger will be huge for the middle of the order.  Seattle will rely on their youth to take a step forward but they have done more than enough to fill in a lineup that was loaded with holes. 

The Mariners also bolstered their rotation by adding Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray.  Ray was lights out for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021, he will now have been playing in a much more pitcher friendly ballpark.  Despite his success last season Robbie Ray still has question marks about consistency.  Ray’s overall success can be attributed to his ability to finally throw strikes consistently.  In the disaster that was 2020, Ray’s BB/9 reached as high as 7, in 2021 he had a career best 2.42.  Behind Ray the Mariners feature the top prospect Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen who are as solid as any 3-4 starters in the entire league.  They have question marks for the 5th spot but overall this is a solid rotation that can compete with any inside of the division.

The Mariner’s bullpen has Paul Sewald, Ken Giles, Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo.  All interchangeable parts that can close, go multiple innings or maybe even start if needed.  It’s solid and I didn’t even name everyone.

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